Die young stay pretty....
Released October 1979
Recorded at The Power Station, New York City
After the phenomenal success of Parallel Lines that saw Blondie move from being a “cultish” power pop/punky band to being a darling of mainstream radio and seemingly permanent fixture in the charts, they tried, in many ways, to return to a spiky, punky sound for this, their fourth album.
The pop, hook-laden singalong sounds of that stream of hit singles from the previous album was replaced by a more industrial, almost grungy, “post-punk”-ish tone to the sound on many tracks, as if they were trying to say “hey, we’re punks after all, guys…”. In a lot of ways, I prefer it to Parallel Lines.
2. The Hardest Part
3. Union City Blue
5. Eat To The Beat
6. Accidents Never Happen
7. Die Young Say Pretty
8. Slow Motion
10. Sound A-Sleep
12. Living In The Real World
The album kicks off with a true power pop classic, however, Dreaming. Clem Burke’s drums roll into an addictive guitar riff and Debbie Harry’s laconic vocal about “when I saw you in a restaurant…”. It has a killer chorus as well. Blondie at their very best. It was a big hit single, unsurprisingly. Forget Heart Of Glass, this blows it away. The punky The Hardest Part sees the disco-ish rock thing that had begun with Heart Of Glass continued, as indeed it was on the album’s other really big hit single, the irresistibly catchy Atomic, which was packed full of hooks. Union City Blue was a mid-paced piece of new wave rock which was also a hit, but a lesser one. Once again, though, Chris Stein and Debbie Harry’s instinct for a captivating chorus was clear.
Shayla sees Debbie in classic torch-song influenced new wave ballad territory, a bit like Fade Away And Radiate on the previous album. Her voice is beautifully haunting on this. Eat To The Beat is a wired-up, frantic punky drum-driven rocker. Accidents Never Happen has that typically 1979 guitar intro, like something by The Police or Joe Jackson, a great rumbling bass line and one of those effortless Harry vocals and more great Clem Burke drums. Die Young Stay Pretty has vague reggae hints that were de rigeur at the time and an instantly appealing chorus. There is also a quirky keyboard intro riff.
Slow Motion has an ethereal vocal from Debbie and a 60s-style backing but a little bit of a muffled production. There is a bit of mystery to these songs, though, which was somehow lacking on Parallel Lines. This is where I find myself liking this album more. There is a strange sadness to this track, under the surface. Atomic with its thumping beat, magnificent bass hooks and hypnotic guitar riff is just superb, let’s be honest. It soars. Disco rock at its finest. Sound-A-Sleep is another of those airy, dreamy Fade Away slowies that Debbie did so well. Her voice floats effortlessly over a pounding bass note. Very atmospheric and evocative. Victor, on the other hand, is the complete opposite, a raucous mess, if I’m brutally honest. Bizarre backing vocals and a shrieking nonsense of a vocal from Debbie. The album and its ambience could have done without it.
Living In The Real World is an upbeat, wired punky number with some more questionable sound production. Indeed, my main misgiving with this album is that its sound is, despite supposed remastering, still quite tinny and muffled in places.
PS - the cover of The Four Tops' Seven Rooms Of Gloom that is one of the bonus tracks on the remastered edition is surprisingly good, as Motown covers are often not. Would have made a better inclusion than Victor.
Below is a clip of Blondie performing Dreaming on Top Of The Pops in 1979.